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MANAGING KNOWLEDGE AT KNOWLEDGE-INTENSIVE PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS: COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE IN RUSSIAN SECONDARY SCHOOLS

Key words: knowledge management, communities of practice, secondary schools Yaroslav Pavlov1 1st year doctoral student Graduate school of management yaroslav.pavlov@gmail.com Anastasia Sergeeva 1st year doctoral student Graduate school of management sergeevan2000@gmail.com Tatiana Andreeva Senior Lecturer, PhD Graduate School of Management andreeva@gsom.pu.ru Anastasia Golubeva Senior Lecturer, PhD Graduate School of Management golubeva@gsom.pu.ru

ABSTRACT In this paper, we are addressing the specific practices existing in schools that are concerned with managing knowledge, namely concentrating on two crucial knowledge processes central for schools: knowledge creation (developing methodological programs) and knowledge sharing (transferring the experience and teaching expertise between the teachers). With that focus we turned to the concept of communities of practice which in our opinion relates to the existing routines present in schools. The goal of our research is to explore how the schools practice knowledge management and how the community of practice concept is applicable to the existing routines established in schools.

Yaroslav Pavlov, Volkhovsky Per. 3, office 213, St. Petersburg, 199004, Russia, tel. +7 921 306 61 59, e-mail: yaroslav.pavlov@gmail.com

1. INTRODUCTION Both contemporary management theorists and practitioners view knowledge as one of the key sources for creation and maintenance of sustainable competitive advantage in post-industrial economy (e.g., Grant, 1996). Thus the issues of managing knowledge in organizations are widely discussed and the literature is abundant with different models and best practices that are supposed to increase the organizational performance by various knowledge management practices applied in organizations (e.g. Nonaka, 1991 Davenport, Prusak, 2000; Teece, 2004). However, these discussions primarily focus on business (for-profit) organizations. We suggest that public sector can also benefit from knowledge management discourse. First, public services per se are fundamental to any society's welfare, which makes the task of increasing productivity and efficiency of such organizations extremely up-todate. Second, some fields of public services, like healthcare and education, are inherently knowledge-intensive, as they are built around intellectual capital of their employees and daily deal with various types of knowledge. Despite these facts, public sector has received much less attention from knowledge management perspective, with healthcare being an exception. The limited research on knowledge management in education is mostly focused on higher education (Steyn, 2004; Penev, Reese, 2009; Shoham, Perry, 2009; Brewer, Brewer, 2010; Sedziuviene, Vveinhardt, 2009), while the literature on secondary education is scarce (among few works can be mentioned Ozmen, Muratoglu, 2010; Zhao, 2010). In this paper, we are addressing the specific practices existing in schools that are concerned with managing knowledge. More precisely we decided to concentrate on two crucial knowledge processes central for the schools life: knowledge creation (in the form of developing methodological knowledge) and knowledge sharing (in the form of interaction and transferring the experience and teaching expertise between the teaching staff). With that focus we turned to the concept of communities of practice which in our opinion relates to the existing routines present in schools. Studying the knowledge processes in schools as a subject of research, we are also seeing the links between the observed practices in the public sector and the private sector. Transferability of the lessons learnt from the practices in either field could contribute significantly to the overall welfare of the society. The goal of our research is to explore how the schools practice knowledge management and how the community of practice concept is applicable to the existing routines established in schools.

2. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND 2.1. Public and private sector

The question of applicability of private sector managerial practices to a public sector is a controversial one. Most of concerns are related to differences between public and private sector. There are two main differences highlighted in the literature between public and private sector (Riege and Lindsay, 2006). First, the private sector is highly concerned with dealing with its competitive environment, whereas the public sector is concerned mostly on service delivery. Second, while private sector is concentrated on

delivering value to its shareholders, the public sector focuses on stakeholder interests. This orientation of public sector leads to involvement of multiple parties in the process, thus creates a lot of challenges in dealing with its complicated stakeholders structure. In order to survive in tough competition and gain some competitive advantage private companies actively develop and adopt different innovative management practices. On the other hand, public sector organizations are reluctant to adopt any of the new management practices (Cong and Pandya, 2003). However, Wiig (2002) points out that improving of KM is critically important for public organization in order to increase quality and efficiency of delivering of their services. Discussing schools as public sector organizations it is observed that there is some competition between different schools in Russia. In order to gain financing schools need to use all capacity in terms of number of students. While Russia is struggling with demographic crises, and parents have choice in which school their children study, this task becomes very challenging; and schools compete toughly to attract every customer. Thus it makes schools much more comparable with private sector organizations. Furthermore, secondary schools can be easily classified as professional organizations. Rangachari define professional organizations in the following way: Professional organizations are organizations where multiple professional groups come together to apply their expertise (specialized skills) and values to the resolution of difficult, and often ambiguous, problems (Rangachari, 2009, p. 133). School teachers can be recognized as professionals; despite some discussions around that, current studies show us that teachers job can be easily approached as professional job (e.g. Wu and Lin, 2011). For the professional organization one of the most common and easy recognizable practice is implementing of Communities of Practices. Thus in the next section we discuss this phenomenon in more details.

2.2.

Communities of practice

Community of practice is a term coined by Lave and Wenger in 1991 for describing a certain type of a group of people, united by similar professional interests. After introduction of a term into academic discourse, a lot of attention has been paid to studying this particular form of professional group especially in the context of learning and knowledge management. Community of practice is a group of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise (Wenger and Snyder, 2000). The definitions of CoPs given by the authors and subsequently refined in the following researches stress the presence of a common theme or purpose. Besides, the researchers note that it is customary for CoPs to spontaneously gather together which creates trust in the community (Choi, 2006). It is also recognized that these groups bear the focus on exchange and development of knowledge around a specific topic (Verburg and Andriessen, 2006). This knowledge-intensive character of CoPs role serves the purpose of adopting the existing knowledge from the members of the group (referred to as learning for exploitation (Nooteboom, 2000), as well as discover new knowledge referred to as learning for exploration. As Choi (2006) puts it CoPs create and share practice to turn implicit knowledge into tacit knowledge (p. 144) According to the research on CoPs, unlike the departments or project teams, communities of practice have non-obligatory nature (McDermott, 1999), that is the

employees are free to join and quit the community (Wenger and Snyder, 2000) Another distinctive characteristic is the informal nature of this unity that is CoPs are not included in the organizational structure and are again closely linked with the voluntary nature of participation. Besides, the participants as well as leaders are self-selected and the whole CoP is selforganizing, which minimizes the degree of governance and control of such a groups activity (Wenger and Snyder, 2000) Finally, it is noteworthy, that such activity and participation in CoPs is non-compensated by the organization, although the benefits and the topics of discussions and activity can be closely connected with the overall companys functioning, moreover bringing significant financial returns. However, stemming from the first mentioned characteristics of spontaneous and voluntary nature, belonging CoPs in their essence is not rewarded financially. If it is not rewarded financially, and highly voluntary, a natural question would be why do people participate in CoPs? Among determinants for such activity are learning motivation, creation of work-related knowledge, relationship between theme and outcome of performance, trust among members, and the leadership traits (Choi, 2006, 144), as well as passion, commitment and identification with the expertise (Wenger and Snyder, 2000) The lack of financial support from the companies is though compensated by a different kind of support such as giving the necessary and supplementary material for CoP activities such as providing lecturers, books, and resources. (Choi, 2006) The outcomes of the CoPs are produced in the form of personal knowledge, relationships and data in the documents (McDermott, 1999). Through these outcomes the direct value for the organization is created in the form of innovations, improved service and career improvements (Verburg and Andriessen, 2006). This in turn can lead to huge savings by, for example, introducing new optimization solutions or bringing more profit by improving the customer satisfaction (Wenger, Snyder, 2000). Another value for corporations is expressed in the role of a corporate training, to obtain knowledge and skills to enhance performance that a community of practice can perform in an organization (Choi, 2006), thus also leading to improvements and increased performance. On the other hand, there have been a few studies that challenge overwhelmingly positive effect of communities of practice on organizational performance. For example, Breu and Hemingway study (2002) is highlighting the negative effect CoP which unites the resistance to change and thus subverting organization (Breu and Hemingway, 2002) There have also been interesting attempts to measure quantitatively the effectiveness and value that CoPs bring to the organizational performance (see, i.e. Verburg and Andriessen, 2006), building frameworks around CoPs and group dynamics theory, showing promising results. Organic, spontaneous, informal nature of CoPs is argued by academics to be resistant to

supervision and interference (Wenger and Snyder, 2000). The individual fascination of sharing knowledge with the peers having the same interests is contradicting the institutionalization and formalization (Verburg and Andriessen, 2006). Therefore, for the managerial practice it is suggested to recognize the value of CoP, and foster, facilitate and assist in a careful way to the functioning of these units (Wenger and Snyder, 2000). This help and support should in their view be provided in the form of resources, paid time for participating in CoP events, sponsorship and recognition. Also, they highlight that management should concentrate not on controlling or governing the CoPs, but rather on eliminating obstacles for their existence. However, since the literature on CoPs is expanding, there have been suggestions to distinguish between different types of such associations, and define the degree of interference basing on such type. That would conceptually challenge the necessity of distance between CoPs and management initiatives. The introduction of the concept into academic discussion follows the appearance and growth of the phenomena in the corporate world. It is clear that scientific discourse is trying to capture and conceptualize the processes occurring for a long time in organizations. Due to the self-evolving and socially interactive nature of CoPs, there are multiple types of such communities identified, i.e. communities of commitment (Collison, 1999), knowledge networks (Bodkin, 1999), interest groups (McDermott, 1999). Also, for example, Andriessen et al. (2004) identified 5 types of CoPs: daily practice community, formal expert community, informal network community, problem solving community, latent network community. Diverse discussions around the types of CoPs allows us not to stick closely to the classical characteristics of CoPs, being voluntary and selforganizing. This is why we shall consider the methodological units of a school through the lens of such concept. We proceed by looking closely at the practices in place in schools, analyzing them through the perspective of communities-of-practice literature, and identifying the characteristics that the units found in schools bear from that phenomenon. We are also interested in the degree of managerial interference into the activity of those and the conditions that determine their output in the form of innovative practices. We finally discuss the value of CoPs in schools perceived by schools leaders.

3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The research exploited mainly qualitative methods of analysis, which provided us with the data that represents current situation of knowledge management in secondary education institutions. The data collection included 12 in-depth interviews with school principles and management representatives. All of these secondary schools are from the same district of the St. Petersburg (Frunzenskiy district). The geographical homogeneity helps us to avoid some of the problems related to influence of the environment, because the environmental factors for the schools of the research are more or less the same. We also analyzed a number of documents from schools as well as legal sources on the subject of methodological groups organization. The data from these interviews provided us with general view on knowledge management practiced in secondary schools. After carefully analyzing the general issues

and identifying patterns, we then selected the outliers that manifested remarkable conditions or unique practices. Following the methodological recommendations of Eisenhard (1989) and Yin (2000) we limited the discussion of our analysis to those three outstanding cases.

3.1.

Knowledge management practices: Methodological groups

The first finding of our research is that currently Russian secondary schools to some extent practice knowledge management. Despite of our focused case study approach this particular result is generalizable. The most common and a very traditional instrument of the managing knowledge in schools are methodological groups. These methodological groups are very similar to the concept of the communities of practice, a provisio that the methodological groups are the formal structures. However, we will subsequently argue that one could still attribute methodological groups in school to a type of a community of practice on the basis of their activities, motivations and outcomes. The methodological groups are so deeply embedded in the teaching system of secondary education that during our interviews none of the respondents emphasized them as a special managerial practice. The methodological groups in Russian educational sector have existed more than 50 years; and they are recognized as an integral part of the schools life. In general the methodological groups are aimed to improve formal methodological procedures of teaching, and at the same time knowledge and skills of the teachers. In Russia, methodological groups are regulated by state laws and standards. This leads to homogenous patterns of the organization of the methodological groups. Besides, it also simplifies the communication of methodological groups across the schools. The methodological groups of each school are formally regulated by district methodological committee which is regulated by the organizations of higher hierarchical level up to the Ministry of Education and Science. There are several organizational routines and rules that facilitate knowledge exchange and best-practices replication between different schools. Generally, this process can be characterized as multidirectional: the methodological groups share knowledge in domains of the same and higher hierarchical level. The set of the methodological groups of one school is formally led by the chairman of methodological department of the school. All the methodological groups of the school are parts of this department. The chairman has mainly administrative and representative functions. There is also one scientific advisor from the district body, who is specialized in pedagogical science and helps the methodological groups in their work. The general principal of methodological groups is that they are organized around one subject or teaching issue. Most commonly a methodological group is organized around one subject. The main requirement for this is that there should be minimum three teachers of this subject in the school. This situation is not common for all school subjects (e.g. geography, chemistry etc.). For this reason methodological groups can be organized around one group of subjects (e.g. natural science). Methodological groups can be also organized around some teaching issue; for example, methodological groups of supervising instructors, instructors of the out-of-class activities, etc. are quite common in Russian schools.

As it was mentioned before, the main goals of the methodological groups are to develop formal procedures and increase the level of knowledge and skills of the teachers. In reality the scope of goals of the methodological groups is wider. This formal goal is supported by the list of different possible objectives and tasks. Moreover, the participants of the methodological groups have a lot of freedom to choose what they can do in addition to main objectives. According to the state regulations methodological groups have to organize minimum four sessions a year and provide a number of documents to report about their work results. However, methodological groups work not only in formalized way; in addition to this minimal requirements they can perform additional tasks. Our respondents (school principals) said that teachers not only approve the formally assigned tasks of the methodological groups, but also take additional initiative. In particular, schools' principals mentioned that methodological groups quite often have more than four sessions. Moreover, their work includes a lot of informal activities: brief discussions to find ad-hoc solutions, mentoring of new/young teachers, etc. Nonetheless, respondents of our interviews pointed out problems that cannot be overcome in the current framework without new organizational solutions. The main problem is the lack of the inter-subject communication. Modern environment requires well-integrated education, which means that teachers need to build links between different subjects. This is avery challenging task for quite conservative Russian secondary education. However, we identified creative and innovative solutions in some of the schools aimed to overcome this problem. Thus we will concentrate in description of three outstanding cases of such solutions. Our choice of the cases is determined by the practices that presented to be outstanding from the routines of methodological groups described by all the respondents.

3.2.

School A

To start the analysis of the first case it is necessary to make a brief introduction about types of schools in Russia. There are several types of public secondary schools in Russia; they are: general secondary school, specialized secondary schools, lyceums, gymnasia (that has nothing common with gym). These different types of schools provide different study programs. General secondary schools provide basic school program, specialized secondary school provides basic program with emphasis on some subject or group of subjects (e.g. mathematical school, linguistic school, etc.), lyceum and gymnasia provides program of advanced level in all subjects with possible emphasis on some group of subjects. Thus the different types of schools have different in terms of prestige. The school A is a lyceum with special emphasis on economics. So this school has advanced program of study, in addition it provides economics course and several electives (business English, French, business communication, IT courses, art courses, etc.). The lyceum employs 60 teachers; it has an administrative team of principal, five vice-principals and two directors of special units; and there is also some supporting stuff. The pedagogical team is evaluated by schools principal as very strong. The principal of the lyceum A mentioned that there are very complicated environment, which leads to several problems. In particular there are a lot of other strong schools

around in 10-minutes walk radius (specialized in math school, specialized in physics school, specialized in English school that is the best in district, school where president Medvedev studied). This leads to the tough competition between schools for the students. For this moment the principal of the lyceum is not satisfied with results. The main problem that she indicated is that students struggling with advanced study program. This leads to two main goals: attract the best students of the district to school, improve performance of the weakest students. If school does not achieve these two goals and will have average performance it can be degraded from the lyceum to general secondary school. To achieve these goals principal decided to facilitate knowledge sharing and knowledge creation in pedagogical area. Moreover, she decided that the way how knowledge is shared in school should be not only subject specific, but also problem specific and goal-oriented. To overcome this challenge classical methodological group is not enough. The solution was described by lyceums principal as following: We have methodological groups, they are subject (or area) specific. However, I introduced laboratories. There are different teachers in laboratories, they are teachers of different subject, but they are working on the same problem. For example we have laboratory of improving the performance of straggling students. Thus, the general idea of these laboratories is inter-subject expertise. They do not replace the methodological groups, they integrate knowledge across subjects. As principal believe, this helps to find new pedagogical solutions, to create more interesting study programs and to improve professionalism of the teachers. To some extent this approach looks very similar to matrix organization structure. However, the laboratory cannot be recognized as a project to full extent; it does not have any project leader and clear timeframes. Moreover, these laboratories are not formalized and have mostly voluntary nature. It unites about five six teachers who work on the same problem. Considering such groups as a Communities of Practice, it is possible to say that methodological group is the Community of Practice joining professionals of same subject, and the laboratory is the Community of Practice joining professionals working on the same problem. In some extent it is possible to call such formal-informal organization as matrix of communities of practices. The interesting peculiarity of the laboratories in this lyceum is their obligatoryvoluntary nature. The idea is introduced by principal and pushed to the practice by her power; schools are quite conservative organizations, and power means a lot there. However, participation in these laboratories is voluntary, but strongly recommended. As principal mentioned, not all teachers participate in laboratories, but they consider this idea as interesting one. Furthermore, principal stressed that in each laboratory can participate only about five six teachers. She said: it will be very hard to organize sessions and coordinate interaction if there are more than five six teachers in the laboratory. This makes the laboratory more alike with project than with community of practice. Thus we have two types of controlled communities of practice in the lyceum A. Such organization of them can be called as a matrix structure of communities of practice.

Such approach can be applicable in different knowledge-intensive organizations. Logically, it mixes advantages of projects, communities of practice and matrix organization structure. However, it can have some disadvantages: poor organization and lack of dynamism, if the same people stay in a laboratory for the long time. To understand all advantages and disadvantages of this idea it is necessary to analyze it after some time of functioning. For this moment they exist in the school about two months, which is not enough to make any conclusion about its effectiveness and efficiency. Nonetheless, the laboratories of lyceum A should be included in the watchlist of innovative knowledge management practices of secondary schools.

3.3.

School B

The school B revealed extraordinary conditions together with a number of interesting innovative practices in the field of knowledge sharing. Part of their activities is impossible to understand without introducing the background of the school first. Formally, school B is a secondary state school, but its origin and the specialization attribute it to a very high extent to a School of Music. In fact, the informal name of it, presented at the website is School Music. Founded in 1937, it originally served as training military orchestra players. It evolved gradually into a secondary state school, complying with the state regulations of providing general subjects knowledge, but retained its historical heritage of teaching all aspects of musical arts, and preparing pupils for continuing their education in higher musical academic institutions. Besides this deep specialization and commitment to musical arts, the school has also functioned as a boarding school, originally hosting all of the pupils in-house. Today, only fourth of the pupils body lives on the premises, the rest come to the school daily. We conducted two semi-structured interviews at the school with the principal and the head of the study program. It is noteworthy that both representatives have the musical background and practice teaching musical subjects at the school. The interviews revealed a few interesting conditions of the knowledge-related processes that are of particular interest to the current study. First, the principle explicitly expressed high concern for the low indicators in the academic achievement in comparison with the average indicators throughout the district. While demonstrating high involvement into the artistic life of the school and overall enthusiasm for the success in music-related activities, both representatives admitted that general educational cycle presents a challenge for them and they are having difficulty living up to the standards of the city. While, in their eyes the methods of assessing the competency of the pupils on the basis of the generally accepted test is not adequate measure of the schools performance, it is still crucial for the subsequent success of the graduates to perform well on those in order to get admitted to the desired university, as well as for the school to rank decently in the government rankings and receive good reputation. Another concern that was expressed was rooted in the historical past of the organization, and referred to as an obstacle that has by now successfully been overcome. It is in our opinion worthwhile to consider that as illustrative example of community of practice traits. Due to artistic specialization, all the teachers in school are divided into three main bodies general education, musical education, and so-called fostering education (the latter refers to those responsible for the boarding school supervision and overall

character building initiatives). The musical education body presents the vast majority 72 out of overall 144 teachers, general education body comprises 24 teachers, the rest being fostering staff. The principle was reminiscing about the times about 6 years ago, when the two main actors (general education and musical education) were opposing each other and forming closed groups, blocking each other from any kind of communication. It was a very hard time, a lot of aggression, everyone was constantly writing official complaints about one another. And you clearly saw to which group everyone belonged to. At the meetings there were distinct gangs. It was literally a war. The obstacle has been overcome due to a number of factors mentioned by the respondents. First reason was that the school moved from a larger building with vast spaces to a smaller one, so that the spatial conditions forced the teachers to become closer. Second, the increase in the number of pupils in 100% (from 200 to 400) has also played an important role in that integration. Finally, the principle referred to her own complex psychological work with the staff and personal involvement into promoting fellowship and unity into the teachers team. At the moment, the principle refers to the situation as a harmonic one: Right now I have a feeling that its only me who remembers that war time. When you come to the pedagogical committee session, you can never see that somebody belongs to a group, they are all together, mixed, musicians, mathematicians, etc. This is an illustrative example, in our opinion, of the community of practice not bringing traditionally cited value to the organizations performance, but rather thriving the isolation and resistance to the uniting initiatives, that could crucially harm the organization life. The recognition of such harm from this particular form of community of practice, united by the opposition to another group, sharing the feeling of belonging to a particular circle, is easily recognized, but challenging to fight. In the case of a musical school we identified a number of initiatives that were key to fighting the war and reforming the communities of practice into fruitfully operating units. One of the initiatives, driven by a common concern to increase the academic achievement records, was introduction of so-called competence weeks. Competence weeks are openly held lessons, where all the teachers of both general and musical education prepare classes on the topic, selected during the committees discussion. After choosing the topic at the committees session (for example The personality of Mozart) every teacher is supposed to conceptualize how to integrate this topic into the subject. It is interesting, how mathematicians, for example, when confronting a topic from music area prepare the tasks to calculate the duration of syncope rhythm. Teachers of geography are thinking how to teach the geographical routes of Mozarts travels. Historians concentrate on the biography of the personality. Its always up to a person, how they see a topic, its a very independent work. One theme, but they choose their own methods and forms of work within the information and knowledge of the theme that they receive. However, it also unites them, because everyone is talking about one common thing, just in different forms. The introduction of competence weeks has not been met with a high enthusiasm by the general education body, however, it was also not perceived negatively. Rather, the first so-called innovative change was met rather perplexedly. Second and third experiments

went more smoothly, and the rest of the practice did not require any explanation and even started to generate interest at the general education teachers. The choice of the topic is also especially interesting when looking at the teachers groups as communities of practice. We dont tell them what topic to choose. I ask every teacher to prepare their suggestions and then we all discuss them. It is all in discussion. But somehow, its only the musicians who come up with the suggestions. However, the general education staff does not rebel, no The principal mentioned that most of the changes and the introduced procedures had recommendatory form and it was stressed that there is no legal obligation to enforce any of the initiatives. She referred to the team as being in the constant process of discussing the problems and looking for solutions together. Finally, what is interesting to mention, the reason the principal articulated for introducing the changes was the dissatisfaction with the academic achievement record: According to the State General Exam results we are one of the last in the district To my mind, these measures [how a pupil rates on this test] are not the most important indicator that should be considered by our society. But we have to live with it and comply However, driven by these dissatisfactions a lot of enthusiastic projects were created that were not exactly consistent with solving the problem with academic performance. Rather, it was naturally following the internal nature of the overall CoP commitment to provide the knowledge of the passion for the arts and music, and thus mixing the desire for action to improve the formal situation with the informal spontaneous character of sharing beliefs and expertise, thus teaching the values and achieving the goals that are set not by the state, but by the participants of the community.

3.4.

School C

One of the problems referred to by some of the principles we interviewed is not attracting enough students according to the full capacity. This means that the competition among the schools in the neighboring area is so tough, that parents are choosing those schools that provide better in their opinion quality of education. School C in this case has quite a good reputation in the district, which can be seen from the fact that it does not have problems with attracting the pupils to the school, and sometimes runs overcapacity. One of the reasons for this success is the specialization and intensive courses in English. Other reasons could be attributed to the some effective management mechanisms, in particular in dealing with teaching staff units. We conducted an interview with the principle of School C, addressing a wide range of questions. We learnt that school C is particularly active in promoting innovative approaches to managing the teachers team, in particular in the way the methodological communities were run. Similar to other schools we studied, school C also viewed methodological communities as a very traditional instrument for knowledge sharing embedded deeply into the historical ways of governing a school. However, strong pedagogical traditions did not hinder the change in the fundamental practice of these communities.

Methodological communities, as a traditional form of expert gatherings, have also existed in school C for a long time. For a short period in the 1990s, they were renamed and called departments (or chairs kafedra), by analogy with university. However, in the beginning of XIX century, the old name was returned, since the schools were seen very different from the university. Also, the restructuring has occurred and the basic communities were formed that included a community of primary school teachers, literature and languages teachers, physics and mathematics, natural sciences teachers and social sciences teachers. Those subjects that did not fit any of the community were reassigned for the district level subject groups. First of all, among innovative approaches the principal stressed the shift of status of such groups to a more informal one. The main goal of such communities, in his words, was in sharing pedagogical expertise and present methodological programs, and not provide reporting. The methodological communities in the schools C were relieved of a major part of bureaucratic responsibilities, concentrating more on the content part. Thus, the liquidation of a huge part of paperwork and endowing them with more time resources for methodological work can be seen as an instrument of support of communities of practice. It is also illustrative of suggestion by Wenger and Snyder (2000) where they recommend management in their attempts to foster CoPs to eliminate obstacles and provide resources in the form of paid-time, materials, and overall respect and support. Second, in contrast to the dominant views on the absence of interference and financial rewards, the practice of the school C showed an established system of monetary incentives for the teachers in methodological communities, who develop methodological programs or guidelines and integrate them into the curriculum. If a teacher presents her methodological program, she receives a bonus, once. But if this program is successful and others start using it too, then she starts receiving another certain bonus monthly. This motivates teachers not only to create new knowledge, but also share it with the others However, this monetary incentive, the principal admitted is not equally successful with respect to different teachers. Another motivation, which he also referred to as a strong one, is the desire for prestige and being the best in the competition among the peers. So, the chairman of the methodological community, he is not just gathering them all together to observe formalities, he starts a topic of discussion, he leads them, they all want to do it, because they want to be the best in this particular school. This is all in their heads, that I have been trying to convey to them, everyone should keep it in mind I am the best teacher here. The motivation of passion and striving to be the best in the field and create new knowledge within one methodological community is another characteristic (apart from non-formal nature) that allows us to consider those groups as CoPs. However, this motivating factor has created not only positive effects for the overall performance of the teaching staff. Together with the leadership aspiration comes another factor that the desire to be the best, despite being recognized and rewarded financially, also created a barrier for sharing the new pedagogical knowledge with the peers. For example, we have this teacher X, she can share her guidelines with you, can give

you whatever you ask, be my guest. But she wont give you the main thing, the key to her methodology, the trade secret. Something that you will never understand from just looking at her presentation and the materials In other words, a part of the teachers were reluctant or possibly even unable to share the new knowledge, although provided time and resources, and even incentives, within the practice of the methodological community. In part, it was related to the tacit character of such knowledge, which the principle referred to as the key to the methodology, the trade secret. In part, such reluctance could be explained by the fear of losing the value on the market, which in this case is expressed non-monetary but in the form of prestige.

4. CONCLUSION One of the initial finding of our research concentrates on the attribution of the methodological groups to the concept of "communities of practice". We believe that in spite of possessing formalized nature of such groups that have been deeply embedded into the school's life for a long time, they still bear a lot of the characteristics that are pertinent to communities of practice. Among such characteristics is unity by professional interests and expertise, passion around one subject, and relative autonomy (or as in the School's C case - the possibility of autonomy). Traditional absence of financial rewards is another feature that, however, was invertedly represented in the school C case that introduced monetary incentives for those activities, thus being an exception. Overall, methodological groups present, in our opinion, a special type of communities of practice, with the specificity determined by the public sector conditions. As it is seen from three cases, some schools not only traditionally practice, but actively exploit concept of communities of practice as an instrument of Knowledge Management. The school C, which is recognized by its' principal as a successful one, follows the traditional pattern of methodological group. However, they do it more actively and with elimination of the obstacles, which is an important issue for supporting communities of practice activities and outcomes. This proactive approach allows school to retain its' success without radical changes. The principles of schools A and B think that their schools are struggling in terms of performance, and they want to improve it. Thus, the key challenges in the performance whether revealed in the academic achievement indicators or overall attractiveness of the school on the market (borrowing from private sector terminology) stipulate the introduction of innovative approaches to their communities of practices. In particular they add between-subject interaction to the traditional methodological groups. This approach allows them to facilitate development of interdisciplinary competence, which can help in improving of professional knowledge and skills of teachers. The particular results in terms of schools' success can be seen just in long-term perspective. However, as principle of school B told, first short-term results are very impressive. She measures this results in increasing of activeness of teachers in self-development, knowledge sharing and knowledge creation. It is often mentioned in the discussions of the public services complexity, how complicated a task of assessing the quality of service delivery in such institutions (Smith, 1993, Buckland, 2009). The principals and other administrative staff conceded the infeasibility of such a task. However, a few distinctive signals from a limited number of existing practices of measuring the performance of secondary schools were

detected by the principles. Such signals as low academic records or operation under capacity were driving factors for introducing change. It is also interesting that the subsequent change was not always following the tasks set by the challenges but rather addressed another group of key issue, namely the resources of teaching staff serving as an intermediary to provide the quality of the output. Such bridging, in our opinion, was done and succeeded mainly because of the existing ties and shared passion in the introduced activities. Thus the communities of practice served as an instrument for delivering value in the complex and challenging environment. Current research is concentrated on managing pedagogical knowledge between teachers as professionals. However, schools stakeholder structure is more complicated; and knowledge should be managed in different dimensions. Thus another direction for future research can concentrate on out-of-school knowledge management. For example, perspective of communities of practice allows investigating intra-school knowledge sharing. The schools principals approach in evaluating success of the school also gives interesting insights for future research. The possibility to discover performance indicators through benchmarking practices is very interesting. Moreover, results provided by methodological groups and other forms of communities of practice can also be used as indicators. We suggest that future research should focus on this issue. Finally, a complex evaluation of the environment and the relationship of the school with the stakeholders and management initiatives for achieving the desired performance for the schools should be ultimate purpose of the research in the area of the public sector. Current research provide valuable base for investigation of the issues mentioned.

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